Sunday, January 22, 2012
Jackson Heights merchants to rally against plaza
From the Daily News:
South Asian merchants in Jackson Heights are riled up over an award-winning pedestrian plaza that they claim is undermining their struggling businesses.
They plan to rally on Sunday for the removal of the square on 37th Rd., between 73rd and 74th Sts., in the heart of Queens’ once-bustling Little India. The area is famous for its South Asian grocery, jewelry and clothing shops.
“Customers come from tri-state [area]... to Jackson Heights to shop,” said rally organizer Rashid Mohammad. But “the traffic has been made so complicated and so many traffic tickets have been issued that people do not like to come [anymore].”
The plaza was created last fall following a three-year Jackson Heights transportation study conducted by the city. The project received strong support from the community, prominent local organizations and was backed by City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
But Razi Ahmed, who plans to open a South Asian supermarket and food court in the former Eagle Theater, said local merchants were unaware of the plan.
“I’m really scared now,” said Ahmed, who plans to open the grocery within two months. “All the businesses are dying.”
“It used to be hustle and bustle,” he said. “Now it’s nothing.”
Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Indian Merchants Association, said the pedestrian zone led to the loss of about 20 parking spaces — another headache for out-of-state drivers coming into a neighborhood known for its lack of spots.
Dass voted in favor of creating the plaza at a Community Board 3 meeting last year but has since changed his mind.
“The place looks like a graveyard. There’s nobody sitting there,” he said. “Garbage is piling up. ... The homeless people are there.”